Justifying its stand, the Centre on Monday submitted before the Supreme Court that it was not invoking the anti-piracy SUA Act against the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012.
The Centre informed the apex court that the issue between India and Italy on slapping Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA) against the marines has been resolved as it has decided to go by the opinion of the Law Minister, according to which provisions under the anti-piracy law are not attracted.
Appearing before a Bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan, Attorney General G E Vahanvati said the government has accepted the Law Minister’s view. The Centre said the probe would continue to be handled by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It was opposed by senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, saying that once the anti-piracy law goes, the NIA probe is also out of question as it can’t probe IPC offences. The Centre, however, opposed the plea and said the agency can probe any case on the direction of the court.
The Bench agreed to adjudicate the matter and allowed the Italian government to file an application regarding jurisdiction of NIA within a week. The Centre was asked to respond within a week after Italy files the application. The court issued notice to the Centre on the plea by the marines that they can’t be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA and directed listing of the matter before a three-judge Bench.
The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, have been held in India since February 2012.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, “The dropping of SUA charges means that there will be no piracy charges. But if the marines make a mistake they will be charged. Courts will decide on it.” “This is not a bilateral issue. It is a legal issue on ensuring those who are charged with the death of Indian nationals are held accountable for it in accordance with Indian law,” said Syed Akbaruddin, MEA spokesperson.